Letter: Time for the Vail Town Council to step up
The Town of Vail faces a monumental decision on the Booth Heights development and so far the town council has ducked the issue; first when the property was up for rezoning in 2017 and then last month in refusing (on a 4-3 vote) to call up the decision of the Planning and Environmental Commission to approve the development. Now there are citizen appeals of that decision and the future of the development and the bighorn sheep is once again in the lap of the town council.
This should not be a tough issue. Protection of the natural environment is supposed to be a core function of the town government. And this project threatens iconic wildlife — the town’s bighorn sheep herd. That is why the community has rallied together like never before. And that doesn’t even count that this project would be a huge eyesore at the entrance to Vail and incompatible with East Vail neighborhoods.
The project was approved by the PEC on a 4-3 vote but that should count for little since one of those voting in the majority was a Vail Resorts employee who cast his vote after VR sent a corporate officer and the COO of Vail Mountain to urge approval of the project.
It’s not like there are no other options to build affordable housing in Vail; there is Timber Ridge, West Middle Creek, the former Roost Lodge and Ever Vail to name just a few. While Triumph and/or Vail Resorts has a “right of use” to this property, that doesn’t mean that it has to be developed in a way that would be massively out of character with East Vail and which has the potential of being an extinction event for the resident bighorn sheep herd.
So yes, it is now time for the town council to step up. A hearing has been set before the council on Tuesday, Oct. 15. This needs to be a full hearing of all involved issues, not a one-sided presentation in which public input is arbitrarily limited to just a few minutes like it was at the PEC hearings. The council also needs to hear from the independent experts. Only in those ways will the real aggrieved parties — the bighorn sheep — get a fair hearing.
And, on the subject of a fair hearing, one member of the council — Greg Moffet — should be disqualified from any further involvement. Back on June 25, when little was known about the project, Mr. Moffet announced in this paper in glowing terms that he supported this project. He is not, therefore, an impartial member of the council to judge the merits of the proposal.